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On Nuclear Energy and the Occult Atom

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document

Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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On Nuclear Energy and the Occult Atom

On Nuclear Energy and the Occult Atom: Additional Comments

Additional Comments

    1. Steiner neither personally, in any of his statements, nor in the study of man and spirit known as Anthroposophy, which he inaugurated, has ever said that it would in any way be desirable, or a goal, that the planet earth be destroyed. Such an assumption could only come about from a grotesque misinterpretation of the laws of the spiritual world, which are briefly summarized below. It will be seen that such a deduction can in no way be drawn from the facts of the spirit, when they are rightly understood.
    2. The development of the cosmos passes through “planetary conditions,” which are described in the book, Occult Science. The great planetary phases divide themselves, if one overlooks certain fine details, into seven epochs each. Those which the earth (as the fourth planetary condition, or incarnation) has already passed through are the Polarean, Hyperborean, Lemurian, and the Atlantean. We live now in the Fifth Post-Atlantean Age: there will then follow the sixth and the seventh stages, at the end of which the spiritualization of the earth will take place into an intermediary stage, known as Pralaya. In the course of the last great epochs of the earth evolution, the “good human beings” will have acquired the forces necessary to transform the evil part, so that it can also go forward into the next stage as a special earth kingdom.
    3. The seven great planetary epochs are further divided into cultural periods (often called “ages” in Occult Science). We live in the Fifth Post-Atlantean Age. There will then follow a sixth and a seventh. It is stated that “After the seventh age has run its course, the earth will suffer a great revolution, which can be compared with that which took place between the Atlantean and the Post-Atlantean ages. And then the Earth evolution, transformed thereby, will again further develop through seven ages.” And later, “The fifth and sixth ages are, to a certain degree, the decisive ones. In the seventh, those souls which have achieved the aim of the sixth will develop further accordingly: the others, however, will find in the altered conditions of the environment but small opportunity to make up for their negligence. Only at some point in the future will the conditions again arise which will make this possible ...”
    4. The spiritual circumstances shown to clairvoyant observation reveal that a fire catastrophe occurred after the Lemurian Epoch, a water catastrophe after the Atlantean Epoch, and another “revolution” will occur at the end of the current Post-Atlantean Epoch. These are spoken of “sine ira et Studio.” The materialistic physicist of the last century spoke of the “heat death of the earth”: but just as we could not say that in speaking of it he was thereby hoping for it to occur, so can we not assume that the spiritual researcher, when he speaks of the necessary revolutions, is thereby “wishing” them. This must be stated here, to head off the absolutely ill-willed thoughts which have already been craftily introduced into the literature of opponents: that Steiner supposedly spoke other — evil — things in narrow circles, in contrast to that which he stated in his public presentation. Whoever is to some degree acquainted with the lecture material of Steiner knows the absolute absurdity of this horrific accusation.
  1. Our Age (since the beginning of the Fifth-Post-Atlantean Age) is distinguished by the stormy development of science and technology under the predominance of the Intellect. However, its actual task is the unfolding of the forces of the Consciousness Soul — that is, the ability consciously, under the mastery of the ego, to turn one's development to the spiritual. This Fifth Age is a decisive one: either for or against the spiritual unfolding of culture and of the individual. And thus technology presents us with a temptation: it offers us comfort and external well-being, and promises to a certain degree a paradise an earth, although it destroys Nature in the process. Two aspects are inseparably bound up with this decision: the assumption of an external technical responsibility for the entire earth (a “global responsibility”), and the study and propagation of the insights which can really lead to a spiritualising of humanity.

    There are many active groups working in the wide field of ecology which experience the first part of the assignment. There are many people among them who can sense the need for a spiritualising of life, without perhaps being aware of all the necessary conditions.
  2. It cannot in any way be questioned that Anthroposophists have tasks to undertake in both fields of work. For this reason I have said, and say it again most emphatically, that the fight for a responsible technology and against the rash or premature application of an unripe technology is a civic duty. One should not try to stand in the way of those who take their start from this fight, nor should their intentions be underestimated. It is just those people who choose to dedicate themselves to the other tasks — the teaching and propagation of spiritual knowledge — who have the duty to acquire the relevant knowledge about the dangers threatening mankind. Among these can surely be counted the dangers which spring from the unrestrained construction of nuclear reactors which is often belittled by pointing out how conscientious the basic research is; the still unsolved problem of the storage of waste products, and — also — the possibility of sabotage and the theft of the highly poisonous plutonium. We must, however, include in this list of dangers those which proceed from the “Third World War,” which is already in progress.
  3. It can also not be questioned that spiritual struggles of a most intensive sort must here be carried out. Among these can be included the fact that responsible technicians — and I know some — are working, in full consciousness of the dangers threatening us, in order that all that is humanly possible be done for their mastery. They, naturally, stand on “the other side” in the opinion of those busy fighting against reactors. However, to put them — globally — under suspicion because of the well-known and inexcusable one-sidedness of the propagators of nuclear energy would only serve to make the already emotionally charged atmosphere more poisoned.
  4. For these spiritual struggles the relevant knowledge of the qualities of the lower realms of nature and of the subsensible forces, as characterized in the previous lectures, will be necessary.

    A most urgent task here will be the conquering of panic. For example one must be quite clear about the fact that, even in the most favourable circumstances of a world-wide decision to control or halt the construction of reactors, we will still be further “electrifying” our civilization. However, the great majority of our contemporaries do not have the slightest suspicion of the unknown side-effects which the application of the electrical technology has upon our souls. These lectures could not undertake the task of presenting these dangers in detail. One may, however, read further about such things in, for instance, “A Living Knowledge of Nature,” Jan. 20, 1923 (GA 220), “Inner Impulses Working in the Evolution of Mankind” (seven lectures), Sept. and Oct., 1916 (GA 171), and “Geisteswissenschaftlichen Erläuterungen zu Goethe's Faust II” (GA 173) (not yet in Translation).

    There would, therefore, simply not be any point in restraining the use of nuclear energy, if more and more people do not learn to see that they have a new responsibility. The application of any one of these forces which derive from the subsensible realms brings with it the task of learning to deal with a new dimension of evil. This insight, however, will not be able to grow in an atmosphere of fear alone. The justifiable concern about what is already being materially and visibly damaged in the environment will undoubtedly contribute to what the ecology movement is trying to achieve in many fields. At the same time, however, one can see another danger deriving from such waves of fear — the rampant spreading of one-sidedness, in all fields and forms. One can consider to be among these the inept attempt simply to interrupt the developments of technology, instead of allowing the appropriate spiritual insights to be further developed simultaneously with the unavoidable unfolding of modern technology. And one of the appropriate insights consists in seeing that not until one reaches the second step necessary for the understanding of evil (see page 26) is it possible to take on the task of mastering those nature forces which possess negative moral qualities.
  5. It would not be superfluous to look at the various characterizations presented about electricity. There are, for instance, a great number of places where Steiner characterizes electricity as “Ahrimanic.” On the other hand, it is “Lucifer” who is ascribed to the “fallen light ether” in the seemingly isolated passage found in the answers to questions, October 1, 1911. I have two comments to make with regard to this. The first has to do with the two aspects of electricity, the wave aspect and the particle aspect; the other has to do with what Rudolf Steiner spoke of in “Goethe and the Crisis of the Nineteenth Century,” Oct. 1916 (GA 171) about a force which appeared in the Lemurian period, and which then remained unknown for a long time afterwards, only to reappear now in the New Age.

    The first comment is that the wave aspect of electricity is mastered with the help of the equations of Maxwell. These have arisen out of the search for a mathematical theory of light.

    I have come to the conclusion that, rather than light itself being of the same nature as electricity, the original kinship of electricity to light expresses itself in the mathematical formulae. That can be attributed to the Luciferic aspect of electricity. On the Ahrimanic side, then, the particle aspect belongs to the polarity of the wave and particle appearances, as mentioned in the previous lecture.

    The second comment is connected with the description given in Occult Science, that only after the Luciferic influence appeared in the Lemurian time could the Ahrimanic influences be admitted into the Post-Atlantean time. From this point of view the passages describing the relationships of that time can help us to understand the source of electricity in connection with Lucifer. We must however, also keep in mind that these two powers work together — a fact basic to even an elementary understanding of their effects — for then both aspects of the realm of electricity become easier to understand.

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